I write this on Chris Canevaro’s three year anniversary of his passing. It seems impossible that it has been this long already. Where did he go? The older I get, the more I ponder the death experience itself as that day looms closer. It’s not a dismal pondering, but one of curiosity and of faith that, like all else, it will be perfect and right. When we have that context, we heighten the days and moments that we have here. Not so much in what we do (though that’s super, too) but in Being. I’m a Bible reader and, interestingly, the word Joy shows up 70 times in the New Testament alone. I often equate joy with how we are Being as opposed to what we might be doing. Joy is a seed that sits in the heart and can be expressed in spirit, whether washing the dishes or on a yacht experiencing the blue waters around Greece.
When Joy is Absent – An Epidemic of Suicide
Notable, too, that I write this as we hear of two recent public figures committing suicide. Unbeknownst to friends and family, these two, in their younger twilight years, were pushed to such a point that no longer living was their appropriate answer. It’s shocking, and while we don’t like to dwell on these dark situations, the truth is that it’s not so uncommon and needs our attention. Why? These two had plenty of both money and fame, and both contributed greatly to mankind. But my suspicion is that despite that, one major thing was lacking: Joy. Because having Joy in one’s heart surpasses and transcends all burden and worry. So we clearly see here that money buys you goods and services, but can’t nourish what the heart longs for – Joy, pure Joy. Joy in just Being.
Do you guys remember that silly movie Bowfinger with Eddie Murphy where his name was Kit, which means, “Keep It Together?” It was hilarious because he was anything but that. He lived his life chaotically and worried about anything and everything. He always got himself into trouble as he tried to “keep it together.” That movie is oh so old, so I can’t even imagine what the movie would look like today in our advancing, fast-paced, conflicted world. How do we “keep it together?”
For starters, suicide is not the answer. Yet, according to the National Council for Suicide Prevention and the CDC, suicide rates are up. It’s an epidemic. I wrote my last blog on depression and how yoga can help anxieties, but according to recent articles discussing these last two prominent suicides, being depressed doesn’t always equal being suicidal.
So what gives? Well, if you can’t uncover the inner Joy that is your birthright, you need to finish reading this and do something now to address that privilege that is yours.
Healing Unlike Any Other
20 years ago my mom died of Alzheimer’s, meaning that I lived through four years of watching someone so beautiful and saintly deteriorate in front of me while still in her early 50s. My losses didn’t start or stop there, as many people close to me died at an early age. Additionally, I had stomach problems at a young age up through my early 30s. I found myself in and out of clinics and hospitals, and 20 years ago visited a gastroenterologist at Stanford. Even as a naturally optimistic person, these things sucked the joy from my life. I was miserable and sad. What came first, the ill health or the ill spirit? Who knows and who cares – it doesn’t matter. Because what came next changed everything: I found Bikram yoga.
In the next few years, you will see BYSJ expand more on why this yoga is a healing modality unlike any other “product” out there. As I tell my staff, we are not competing against the many types of exercise, or even other forms of yoga. Our competition is drugs for addictions, prescriptions for depression, unnecessary surgery, negative body image, blood pressure medications. Our competition is the various “alternatives” we use to escape, to soothe an “ill” feeling for a fleeting moment. Fleeting is the key word here. Whatever is broken needs to be healed eventually or it will progress and kill the hope and spirit of joy within each of us!
Bikram Yoga – Balancing the Bodily Systems
Bikram yoga helps eradicate those mega toxins we accumulate from what we consume and what we breathe. You’ll bend your spine in all forms of natural range of motion so your nervous system won’t flake on you, interrupting those feel-good chemicals. You’ll process hormones correctly, giving you freedom from a sluggish metabolism and those doubts that unconsciously creep up when your hormones are unbalanced.
Savasanas in class might be the most unique thing we do in Bikram yoga. Without savasana, folks, there is no Bikram yoga. It’s 90 minutes because your asana is married to your savasana, acknowledging that what we sow so shall we reap: do the work, get the benefit; move the body, still the mind; cause the interruption to heighten the communication. And if you do this everyday, the harmony between your mind and your body synthesizes, fertilizing enough to grow and flourish that seed of joy.
I don’t know anything about suicide. But I know that all yoga is good. From my nearly 20 years of practice and over 15 in owning and teaching at BYSJ, I know that THIS yoga delivers. A few examples I’ve heard from you members: “The confidence I have now in the speeches I give at work;” “My lungs can take the higher elevation when I climb;” “I’m a better listener to my kids.”
But, Bikram Yoga grants you a blessing you might not have known was missing – happiness. But your Bikram Yoga practice needs to be essential and committed, by practicing A LOT – 5-6 times a week. A casual practice will only give you casual results. There isn’t much clinical evidence yet on how yoga “prevents” suicide or depression. But my personal experience and the thousands of stories that I’ve heard over the years from members tells me that this yoga helps you lay down your burdens. Even if just for 90 minutes, we pick up our burdens after, this time in a lighter fashion with a different perspective.
These burdens are too heavy and too many to carry. Left alone you’ll bury yourself dead, and you haven’t even died yet. So, if our darkness is getting more sophisticated, then we better turbo-charge our bodies and minds so that darkness passes over us. Make yoga a choice, then make it a requirement.
But there’s something more to add here. Bikram Yoga is the same every day. It’s the yoga intended for seven billion people, designed for beginners. No one cares if you’ve ever practiced anything a day in your life. The teacher provides safe instruction with a dialogue and you take it where you can, sitting if you need. The room is hot so we see you with as little on as possible so no one knows who you are, what you do, or the house you live in. So, if there was ever a place for you to BE, it’s here. The nature of this yoga eliminates roles, titles, status or other. You are just like everybody else in the yoga room – no preference, no bullying, no entitlement, no help! And the best part is that you are accepted and even loved in this community.
Yep. And there it is – community. Our world now keeps us “alone” in so many ways. Tight schedules, so no time to chat. We work by ourselves from home. We even shop online, so there’s no personal interaction. As human beings we are sacrificing the one thing we do need: each other. A yoga community provides a sense of belonging that we won’t get online, at work, or even in our like-minded circles. This type of community sees you for YOU. Inherent in that is a feeling that says you are good, you are enough, you are appreciated, you matter.
At BYSJ, I know for myself and all our staff, we couldn’t do the work we do if we didn’t just love and adore you members. We care about each one of you! You may have read in the newspaper recently about a gentleman that died from a surfing accident in Santa Cruz. That gentleman was one of our own. Richard Herrin loved this yoga and practice up to five times a week. Bikram Yoga improved his life so much that he and his wife decided to go back to college and get their engineering degrees. He had just graduated from San Jose State that Thursday! He left his family way too young but I bet you he left this earth with JOY in his heart!
An Opportunity – International Day of Yoga (Thursday, June 21st)
June 21 is now being recognized as International Day of Yoga! How cool is that?! Given all I’ve written here, I’m begging you to get any and all friends and family that have not yet found yoga to come in and do a class! It’s free all day and we have three other events tied into the free yoga: meditation; a talk on how to lock the knee; and a talk on the spine in Bikram Yoga. It’s an open house with fruit refreshments throughout the day. Teachers will be around all day to talk to anyone, especially those that suffer from lack of joy. Push them to come because losing hope is the worst. BYSJ is an exemplar community. If you haven’t found your community yet – find one or, better yet, get here! And if you can’t make it to BYSJ, stay online, connected to us, and know that we will get to where you are soon!